Beliefs

Father Knows Best: Is it OK to be angry at God?

Do you have a question about life, love, or faith? Submit it online, fill out the form below or email it to [email protected]

Hey Rev!

Is it OK to be angry at God?

– Anna

Hey Rev!

How should one respond to anger at G-d?

– Len

House-ad_SPO_FKB_new_0429139Dear Anna and Len:

A few years into our marriage, Mrs. FKB and I were having an argument about something. She was getting more and more angry and I was retreating further and further into silence and into a flat affect. If a scientist in a white lab coat were to have interrupted our argument at that moment and asked me what was going on, I probably would have said that I was being calm and reasonable and rational. But Mrs. FKB didn’t see things that way at all.

Abruptly, Mrs. FKB stopped what she was saying, she looked right at me, and she said, “I insist that you fight with me!” It was one of the biggest gifts that she has ever given to me. What I was calling being calm was actually being distant. I was refusing to engage with, to pay attention to, my partner. And my distance was putting up huge barriers to connection and understanding and forgiveness.

I think about that argument a lot. It reminded me in a big way that loving and respecting another person sometimes means taking him or her seriously enough to express anger, it sometimes means taking him or her seriously enough to have a fight.

And that brings us, Anna and Len (thank you, by the way, for the first-ever tag-team question in Father Knows Best history), back to being angry with G-d.

“Father” is far and away the most common metaphor that we employ when talking about G-d – I don’t know that there is even a close second. But it isn’t the only metaphor Scripture gives us: those of us following the Revised Common Lectionary heard a reading from the Book of Jeremiah just this past Sunday in which G-d refers to himself as Israel’s “husband” (Jeremiah 31:32). And that makes me wonder if some of the lessons of marriage might help to inform our conversation with G-d.

As people of faith, we spend a bunch of time talking about the limitlessness of G-d’s love and power and mercy. But then we often act as though G-d is kind of fragile, as though G-d needs to be insulated from even the smallest criticism, as though it were a radical sin for us or for others to express our doubts or our disappointments in G-d. But what if G-d is not only strong enough to hear our deepest complaints but actually wants to hear them? What if G-d, as our husband, hopes that we will engage in our relationship seriously enough to tell him the truth?

If that’s right, then anger with G-d is not only OK, but it is actually evidence of abiding faith. We see that abiding faith attested across scripture: consider Job, who confronts G-d about the misery and the loss and the injustice that has befallen him, who demands an explanation of G-d; consider the author of Ecclesiastes, who shares his depression with G-d; consider the fury and the despair in the Psalms of Lament (e.g., Psalm 13, 22, 79, 88, 142, and the quivering rage of 139); consider Jesus, quoting one of those very Psalms as he hangs in agony from the cross. Early and often the Bible demands of G-d: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalms 13:1)

How should one, Anna and Len, respond to anger with G-d? Take that anger straight to G-d. Name your anger (and your disappointment and your confusion and your sadness and your grief and whatever else) unapologetically and totally before G-d. Name those hurts as you would name them before a spouse whom you love and respect enough to do the hard work of fighting.

And then pay attention. Pay attention to the holy argument that you have begun with G-d.

About the author

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.

6 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • I’m curious about your use of “G-d,” as I have only seen this in Jewish contexts. Wait, was Lauren Markoe editing this…

  • It would be unnatural to never be angry with God. We are human, and we are ignorant of why God allows evil to exist. Just like children who are too immature to understand a parent’s reasoning, they get angry at any imagined slight against them.
    But, just like we can’t pretend our parents don’t exist, we cannot pretend that God does not exist. One must grow in knowledge of who God is in order to deal correctly with any anger towards Him. God wants us to share our anger with Him, for He is not vengeful or eager to punish you for yelling at Him.
    Anger can be a prayer, of sorts, a cry for help and understanding. God knows we hurt, and He is not deaf to our cries.

  • @James Carr,

    “we cannot pretend that God does not exist.”

    Why not? There is no evidence for god.
    And why must you pretend that he does exist? How does your pretending help anyone?

  • Who’s pretending? God is real. Still looking for hard evidence that negates the Four Gospels in which proof of God is detailed explicitly. Looking for those 1st Century accounts that dismiss what the Gospels recorded.

  • God is perfect in love, justice and wisdom. It’s we humans who inherited sin, imperfection and death through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God.

    God’s love for us is so intense that he gave his perfect son, Jesus, as a ransom sacrifice for mankind so that sin, imperfection and death will be done away with (Revelation 21:3,4).

    God allows suffering because his right of sovereignty over mankind was disputed by Satan; however, that issue will soon be resolved when God’s kingdom puts an end to man’s corrupt systems and wicked ones and rules with peace, righteousness and love (Isaiah 11:1-9).

    In the new and cleansed earth that we have to look forward to living forever on, we can enjoy a most close and loving relationship with God as his children on earth.

ADVERTISEMENTs